Troma's own Lloyd Kaufman talks about The Toxic Avenger, Poultrygeist, Return Of The Class Of Nuke'Em High, Stan Brakhage and the state of the Hollywood remake with TV STORE ONLINE.
TV STORE ONLINE: Lloyd how are you doing?! I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to give me this interview. I've been a huge fan since I was basically sucking on my mom's tit!
KAUFMAN: Ha! Thanks for being interested... You can suck on my tits anytime you want! The older I get...I'm starting to get pretty nice man tits! When my wife and I had our first child... My wife was breast feeding. I tried to put the baby on my breast and it went for it! Then it screamed "Ahhhh!" and rejected it.
TV STORE ONLINE: Doesn't that cause possible complications in the female to child rearing process?
KAUFMAN: Well, I have four kids and that is the only one of them that is in jail!
TV STORE ONLINE: POULTRYGEIST (2006) is one of the greatest cult films of recent years. The ending with the stock Troma car flip is the best. However, I've always wanted to know since you've used that in so many of your films... Where in the hell did that footage originate from exactly?
KAUFMAN: That's a good question. That footage was shot originally for SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D (1990). We shot it for KABUKIMAN first and the stunt actually looked good. The stunt men actually did what they said they were gonna do. The only fly in the ointment was that the guy driving the car, took it on the ramp faster than planned and the car flew faster and came really close to the camera I was using. When we do stunts, I'll usually do the camera work, simply because in a danger situation if someone is gonna get hurt, I'd rather it be me. The car came so close to the camera, that I really thought when the car came down that I had missed the shot. I thought my inner soul left the state of New Jersey and when down to Mexico. That car looked just like it was gonna come down on me as I was standing there. But I must have stood there cause I got the shot and it was perfect. In fact, other movies have asked to use that footage cause it's a great shot, and also as a homage to Troma. In fact MTV just called up and said that they wanted to use it as well.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do we know how many films the footage has actually be used in?
KAUFMAN: Well, we aren't keeping track, but I know I've used it for sure in at least six films that I've directed. I've given it to some other companies to use, we've even given it to some student filmmakers to use for free. You will see it from time to time in other films to this day as well.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you always plan to finish off the characters in POULTRYGEIST or was there a alternate ending?
KAUFMAN: Well, we always planned to kill them off. But the car flip wasn't the first thought on how to do it. Then it was just too perfect. I didn't wanna use it at first, cause I thought everyone was gonna expect it, so I thought, let's NOT put it in. Then we just decided it was just too perfect NOT to use it. And because it comes at the ending, people have pretty much given up on seeing the car flip, so I figured it could get the audience's wheels spinning, giving them a surprise. It's the perfect place for it in the film. A lot of people have never seen the car flip, so it's exciting on that level, but for those who have seen it, it's makes them even happier.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you feel the VHS boom and the Pay Cable empire of the 80's and 90's was an important aspect to your success over the years? With it gone, how has Troma been able to continue on with its success?
KAUFMAN: The playing field has altered. Back then, if you have something that the public wanted to see - the conditions were fair enough. You could get your movie to the public. Around 1990, two things happened. First, in the late 80's Ronald Reagan got rid of the rule which prevented movie studios from owning movie theaters. Then Bill Clinton, got rid of the financial syndication rule. So he got a lot of money from those media companies and he got rid of the F.C.C rule, which stopped the networks and the stations from being consolidated. Also, from owning the content. When that happened -- HBO, CBS, NBC, Showtime could all be a little club with each other and own the movies they were showing, and they could sell their content back and worth between each other. The old rule, used to mandate that those companies had to buy 35% of their content from independent companies. So when those went away, that was the end of Troma on television cause then they could make their crappy reality shows, crappy sci-fi movies, and their piece of shit Lifetime movies.
SyFy Channel is owned by NBC Universal. HBO makes it's own movies now. So those companies only buy from the majors now. Troma is blacklisted from American television. CANNIBAL THE MUSICAL (1993) has never been shown on television, even though it has sold hundreds of thousands of home video units. CANNIBAL THE MUSICAL contains no nudity, and it's made by the South Park guys, so why hasn't it ever been thought that putting the movie on Comedy Central wouldn't be a huge success because of South Park. Because it's Troma or independent -- they won't touch it. It's a ridiculous situation.
TV STORE ONLINE: With THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984)...How long did it take you from start to finish to create that character, write the script, and get it committed to film?
KAUFMAN: It took about a year to come up with concept. We were making raunchy comedies. We got in early on those and were making those before PORKY'S (1982) came along. The studios started making these movies as well, using good actors and good scripts. So we saw something in Variety or Hollywood Reporter that said that horror was dead.
So my partner (Troma Co-Founder, Michael Herz) said, "Let's go into something that's already dead". I always loved Frankenstein and I always wanted him to live. And I always loved Charlie Chaplin a lot too, that's where the 'Blind Girl' comes from...From Chaplin's CITY LIGHTS (1931). And Preston Sturges too. He does a very good job satirizing village life, so that's where Tromaville comes from. And of course, all our films have political themes. I became interested in the environment as well. My wife and I used to go camping and we'd see all these McDonalds plates and cups that were not bio-degradable, just laying all over the place. And I was reading about toxic waste dumps all over the word that were ticking time bombs.
Children in Buenos Aires playing with pixie dust, which turned out to be Uranium and stuff like that. So I decided let's make a movie about the environment. And at the same time, the trends were people spending a lot of time at sports clinics and workout gyms and they were taking vitamins. So I thought that it was really interesting how we were destroying the planet but at the same time trying to make our bodies beautiful. Finally, I was at the Cannes Film Festival and getting extremely drunk, and it hit me. Let's not make a horror film, let's make the bad guy, the Frankenstein the good guy. And then everything fell into place. We made the movie, no one got it, no one wanted to show it. Then finally we got a theater in the Village in New York City to show it. The theater was owned by one of Andy Warhol's friends. And it caught on like wild fire all over the world. It's not a horror film, it's a satire using the Grand Guignol format.
TV STORE ONLINE: I read somewhere that you're a big fan of Stan Brakhage?
KAUFMAN: Yes!!! Not only was I a fan, but when I was in college I brought him to Yale to interview him on the radio station there. And near the end of his life I was reunited with him. If you got into the archives on Troma.com under the section "Lloyd's Roids" there is an essay I wrote about him and his influence on me.
TV STORE ONLINE: Including Brakhage...While at Yale what films did you discover that you feel had an direct influence on your work?
KAUFMAN: Certainly, anything by John Ford, Chaplin, Keaton...Buster not Diane. Sam Fuller, Robert Aldrich. For the most part, the great American auteurs are my greatest influence. At the same time, I love Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, and Ernst Lubitsch too. All those guys knocked me out.
TV STORE ONLINE: As Lloyd Kaufman the actor, you have a long history of playing drunks and bums in other people's movies. At this point, do you feel that you are being type-cast?
KAUFMAN: I am! For years I've been type cast as a drunk or a doctor. Which is no surprise because I actually am a drunk! But that goes back to me being in ROCKY (1976). In CRY UNCLE! (1971), I played a drunk on acid back in 1970. And I had taken a lot of acid so I knew how to do that role. Recently I've been getting some more interesting roles though. James Gunn just put me in his movie a while back. I was in a scene with Kevin Bacon and Ellen Page. And in GAMER (2009) I played a cyborg. My range is expanding for sure.. But for years, you're right, I was type cast as a drunk or doctor aka dirty Jew. A dirty Jew with a bow tie. That's what you want? You get Lloyd Kaufman. I still do movies if there is no budget for free, but lately I've been getting better and better roles and fees.
TV STORE ONLINE: So your kids can eat?
KAUFMAN: Not my kids! I only care about me. I live my life like that movie DEAD RINGERS (1998). You ever see DEAD RINGERS? Me and Michael Herz are twins!
TV STORE ONLINE: I really enjoyed reading your book "Sell Your Damn Movie"...
KAUFMAN: Today you don't need a lot of money to make your own damn movie. There is economic blacklisting now. Now the way it's going a lot of productive citizens are making movies. Teachers are making movies now in their spare time. It's possible now to make a quality movie in Detroit now with the technology that's available. So what I did was write a book about selling and distributing your own movies. It explores giving your movies away to advertise them. Film piracy isn't such a bad thing. It gets into the hands of thousands, advertises the indie movie, and copyright laws are so fucked up anyhow. They are there to help Disney, and keep the property in the hands of these big evil companies.
The book talks about how Troma is successful, and how with the help of our fans we've been able to stay in business for over 35 years. It also talks about how to get around these big companies. How to distribute your movie. 100% of the time your distributor will fuck you. It almost seems better to be a no budget filmmaker. The key to this system is that you have to have something that's good. It has to be good. So what if movie people start doing like what musicians are doing where you give your movie away online and you ask for donations, or you give it to them, and then ask for them to buy a real DVD version as well once they've seen the movie or even buy a t-shirt for the film.
TV STORE ONLINE: As this point in your career...What is your proudest moment?
KAUFMAN: My proudest moment in my life is when I am with my family and we're together. I get to show them off. Also, Michael Herz and I just marked 35 years in business two years ago. No one gave a shit. No one in New York gave us any coverage. 35 years of making movies in New York and no one gave a shit. Michael Herz and I have been partners for 35 years! I am very proud of that. I've been with my wife for 35 years as well. I am very proud of that as well. I am working on TOXIC AVENGER PART 5: TOXIC TWINS by the way. Another exclusive for you! Maybe we'll make it in 3D. Or maybe we'll make Toxie's twin blue like AVATAR (2009). I've been researching movies about twins for the script. I watched TWIN FALLS IDAHO (1999), and I watched Lindsey Lohan in THE PARENT TRAP (1998). I just directed three new films too! RETURN OF THE CLASS OF NUKE'EM HIGH VOLUME 1 (2013), OCCUPY CANNES! (2014) and RETURN OF THE CLASS OF NUKE-EM HIGH VOLUME 2 (2014) which we're in post production on the later two currently.
TV STORE ONLINE: Mentioning your family. Underneath your crass humor... I get this strong sense that you're really just a family guy. Have you ever had any troubles balancing family and work?
KAUFMAN: I went to Yale. I actually majored in Chinese studies. I was interested in Taoism. You can't have good without evil and you can't have pleasure without pain. It's not that weird, that I'm kinda normal. I believe my children should be properly educated. They should speak well. They should have a liberal arts education. Meanwhile, I've got this crazy alternate life of hard bodied lesbians, people getting their ass kicked, and people have explosive diarrhea. Thomas Jefferson was a duelist. He had a similar view to the universe, but I could be wrong. I get him confused with The Jefferson's from the TV show.
The fact that I'm still around is amazing. How many filmmakers make one or two films and disappear? How many companies spend millions in advertising and then they are gone. We're still here. We put out movies from the heart, movies we believe in. Michael Herz and I have never had a contract. I haven't even looked at the Troma check book for ten years. I mean there's no money anyhow...lol. Whatever Michael wants to do is fine with me, and vice versa. If he tells me not to do something I'll listen to him, he doesn't ask much of me, and vice versa. I'm nuts, but I'm not stupid. There hasn't been another studio in the history of cinema that's had the same management for 35 years. And there hasn't been a partnership where one of us is rarely seen and the other is always drunk! Michael is much crazier than I am but everyone thinks he's the straight edge guy. But he's a strange guy without a doubt, and he's seen every movie ever made but he just doesn't want to be in the limelight.
TV STORE ONLINE: How do you feel about remakes of your films?
KAUFMAN: Listen, we are gonna get a big fat check for THE TOXIC AVENGER (20??) remake. That is going to help us stay in business. Not everyone has heard of THE TOXIC AVENGER And if these younger people go and see it, and it's great, than that's great. But if it's bad, then those kids are going to go out and buy or download TOXIE on The Pirate Bay and it is going to expose a whole new generation to THE TOXIC AVENGER. Fans are really pissed about the TOXIE remake. In fact there is a Facebook page where people are signing up on the "Don't Remake" page. The point is: Some remakes are better than the original. For example, A STAR IS BORN (1954) with Judy Garland. The last one was way better than the original. The remake of THE FLY (1958)...Croenberg's THE FLY (1988) was amazing. A company has even already approached us about remaking POULTRYGEIST!
TV STORE ONLINE: You know the best remake of all time was Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of PSYCHO (1998)...Did you like it?
KAUFMAN: That was a terrible remake! Hitchcock was a very romantic heterosexual guy making movies. He was darkly romantic. Gus Van Sant is a homosexual, isn't he? Why would you have a homosexual remake a dark romantic heterosexual director's masterpiece.. That was just stupid. Michael Bay's remakes are horrible. There are horrible sequels too.
Darren Bousman, who made REPO: A GENETIC OPERA (2008) re-made Troma's MOTHER'S DAY (2010). Bousman is a great director. He's seen the original MOTHER'S DAY (1980) over two-hundred times. If the remake of TOXIE isn't good, then fans can go and watch the original. It's not a big deal. A bad remake of any of our films isn't gonna hurt us. We're blacklisted. None of our films will ever be on television again. A remake will never hurt us! The guys remaking TOXIE all went to Harvard. They aren't dummies. If they do the remake our little company is gonna get paid. We'll be able to make another movie that all our fans will respect and appreciate or at least respect!
TV STORE ONLINE: What are Troma's plans for 2014?
KAUFMAN: We are hoping to stagger along. We never make plans. We wanna make more movies from the heart. We want to develop more scripts that we believe in. My plan is make another movie. Whether it makes money is to be seen. Troma has a library. We have over one thousand films, cartoons and TV shows in our library, and we get a few crumbs from that which keeps us going. We love movies. The playing field is very un-level now. It's against the indie movie company right now. You can speak to several indie movie companies that say they are doing great. And the next thing you know they're gone in six months. If things are so great... Where are they going? They are making good movies but they can't get their movies out to the public. Their only option is to take it to the big guys, and they make just enough money to survive. Troma has a cult following. A very loyal fan base, and our fans support us. That's how we continue to thrive, and that's how we continue to make movies of the future!
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
For more with Lloyd Kaufman please visit:
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